Semesters taught: Spring
The goal of this class, a requirement for a major in biology or zoology, is to teach students about the mechanisms of evolution. Evolutionary processes are critical for understanding a wide diversity of phenomena, many of which have direct consequences on human health (e.g. antibiotic and pesticide resistance). Students learn about the modes of evolution, with an emphasis on how the process works. This approach is essential for students to make predictions on the magnitude and direction of evolutionary change. After the foundations are laid down, students use these principles to understand human history (e.g. recent colonization of the globe), the origins of biodiversity, and how evolution continues to shape the world around us. Laboratory exercises are absolutely essential to ensure that students understand the processes involved and simultaneously gain competency in scientific reasoning.
Semesters taught: Fall
Population genetics provides the theoretical foundation for the study of genetic variation, and plays a primary role in guiding biological research in the 21st century. This course is essential to the research conducted by biologists across many disciplines. Using simple mathematical principles, models for understanding evolutionary processes are developed. These models help to clarify the processes that cause evolution: mutation, migration, genetic drift, and natural selection. I use the old-fashioned chalk-talk format so that students can derive and appreciate the meaning of many classic equations and predictions in evolutionary theory. To complement this grounding, students learn the basics of population-genetic data analysis in R and give a research talk to hone their ability communicating science to a diverse audience.